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A Truly Incredible Experience

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity this year to attend the PancreasFest symposium in Pittsburgh. A little background on me, I have a Spink1 mutation that has caused me to suffer with chronic pancreatitis for half of my life, just 3 months ago I underwent a TPIAT surgery at the University of Minnesota that has greatly restored my quality of life.

As someone who has both suffered from pancreatic disease and reaped the benefits of the innovative work being done in the field, attending PancreasFest was inspiring, educational, and hopeful. Those suffering from pancreatic disease know that often it is hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel, but PancreasFest served as such a strong beam of light for patients suffering from all forms of pancreatic disease. The symposium featured endocrinologists, pancreatologists, GI specialists, and oncologists sharing their research, treatment methods, and observations, which as a non-medical professional was overwhelming and informative in the best ways. But the beacon of hope really was highlighted in the interaction between all of these specialists. At the end of every session, speakers opened the floor for questions, and members of the audience and presenters were able to discuss their work in a way that improved the knowledge of everyone in the room.

I chose to attend the breakoff session about pediatric pancreatitis, as that is what I suffered from. I was particularly excited to see that a real case was up for discussion at the end of the session. The doctors presenting laid out the facts of a particularly complicated case (keeping the patient anonymous, of course) and opened the floor for feedback, questions, and ideas from the professionals in the audience. It was so amazing to see so many talented, educated, and informed minds working together to solve a problem I know so well. The idea for my TPIAT was actually born at a similar conference, when my pancreatic specialist was discussing me with other doctors, so I know the life-changing effects collaboration between medical professionals can have on the lives of patients.

I personally have had my life changed as a result of the inventive work of specialists like those in attendance at PancreasFest, and to see all of those minds working together, sharing, collaborating, and learning from one another was truly an incredible experience.